ITERATIONS OF SUMMER

1.

The dog drove the jeep into the cement base of the Handicapped sign. The traffic continued to flow on the highway. The angels are tired from saving so many. The ghosts cringe in an abstract way. No one finds a four-leaf clover really.

 

2.

The elderly woman can barely count her change. The young caretaker with the nose ring has all the patience of a seed. Some will water the vegetation. Some will wait for the thunderstorms. A tornado could take out the whole town while the people therein are sleeping.

 

3.

The pronouns fell out again. It was all more objective this way. Well, not really. So-and-so says such-and-such. Just another variable out of context, misjudged by some, reported on TV. No trial for impeachment yet. The neighbor, through the window, is brushing his teeth. Voyeurism, an outlet. Watching, a game.

 

4.

There were many games played by many. Hoola hoops and Styrofoam rockets at the party with plastic martini glasses and silver paper goods. The children ran through sprinklers while the adults complained about work. So-and-so did such-and-such and didn’t take a lunch break. What an ass kisser. What a mile ‘til Friday. Time-starved.

 

5.

Nightmares jarred the sleeper repeatedly. There were broken windows and doors—cracked computer and TV screens. The dreamer ran her hand through the glass and watched the disappearing pixilation. She would take the shards to the beach before the end of the summer—to recycle and plant sea glass seeds. Yes, one must be very patient. One must sleep with the lottery tickets under the pillow.

 

6.

The poetry reading was not a bore at all. The poet barely cleared his throat. The audience, captivated, forgot about work and household chores. What a luxury to be entertained without alcohol or drugs. The words made the people very hungry. Some would go out after for pizza and beer. Others would fly into their cars and go home to their significant others, children, or TV. Perhaps a book now. Perhaps a world between pages in which to become.

 

7.

The sign on the door said the baby is sleeping. The writing on the wall said that war would still be going on. There were too many teams and no competent leadership. What could one do, really? Make a phone call; send an email? Text the netherworld. Tell them to come fetch some of the crew.

 

8.

Time should be carefully allotted before it accrues. There is time for structure and time for the play of children and animals. Rub the puppy’s belly. Pull out the string for the bored cat. And then the lounging in the summer grass; walking across it to sooth one’s overworked bare feet.

 

9.

Summer was passing too quickly. Some of the garden, a small percentage really, had been taken out by the Fourth of July and thereabouts heat. Save the vacation for winter and somewhere tropical. Put the loose change in a jar. The waves soothe already in the future.

 

10.

There were metaphysical moments a few in the crowd wanted to talk about, but the words ran right off the page. Like a watercolor on an incline leaving spider maps. The mask should ward off the evil spirits and invite the kindest ghosts to leave their metaphorical forests. We can no longer see the trees; stuck in being [pronouns].

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Further Studies in Existentialism /6

  1. The island within: the ship of the singular brought me here, or I was here all along but couldn’t articulate. There were others I had to send away. They didn’t recognize me.

 

  1. The caregiver doesn’t recognize the beloved. He plays her favorite music, so she has something to hold on to as a steadying branch amidst the fuzzy confusion—and so she will take the collection of pills without biting his hand.

 

  1. With the right haircut, I may be someone different for a while. Is it a coincidence that the hair grays more on the right; the right side of the brain overplayed?

 

  1. How many days can one wear a bathrobe before it is clinical? The philosopher wonders, unable to do laundry. The Sisyphus uphill—at an obtuse angle more difficult to navigate in daylight.

 

  1. There is no noun form to express being overwhelmed. The overwhelm-ation subtracted her somehow.

 

  1. Next month, I will believe in something. I am almost certain.

 

  1. I disappeared again. Damn it. I’ll have to put posters up on the telephone poles and social media. Free lunch if you find me. Bring your spiritual medicine kit; sign the nondisclosure agreement. We can have sushi or tacos—your call.

 

  1. Some people are linear, some circles, some Mobius strips.

 

  1. Are these notes/studies in line with Stevens’ “supreme fiction” or are they just to get by?

 

  1. Drinking coffee, the philosopher knows he is alive and not getting thrown around in dreamscapes, lost in sound paintings.

 

  1. The dog can hear me chewing from the other side of the House. After our long winter hibernation, we are hungry all the time.
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NIGHT GARDENING / summer

Do the neighbors think my flashlight eccentric or that the cat is missing again?

Everything is awash in lavender-blue moonlight—especially the towering monkshood, cascades of verbena lace, the white snap dragons.

Even the ladders of cathedral bells, the waving French vanilla petunias, chartreuse potato vine.

With the proper tools, the hands hurt less and can be tasked with typing between chapters of tending to the poetry garden, the broken statue of Buddha, the incorrect temperature clock, the unruly clematis of magenta and white striped stars.

I remind myself to install the galaxy app tomorrow to better chart the patterns of sky stars in place amidst the errant airplanes.

To be patient with my elderly mother, help get the loudest niece into a quieter line, and train the dog better. He’s been getting away with small pleasures of late but so cuddly at night.

The new vinyl patio table procured this afternoon and more citronella candles, a Brazilian hammock of chartreuse and violet-indigo and white.

The eyes are tired and well with tears. There is just so much here.

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NIGHT GARDENING / MOONFLOWERS

I wrapped the clouded night sky around me to hide the moonflowers growing from my stomach up my throat. Their elegant chalices choked me, making it impossible to speak or make sense of things I used to know.

They were no longer thirsty after last night’s rain but curious about the moths.

When I grew too warm, I shaped the sky into a hammock and listened for trains carrying cargo from one city to the next.

Unable to rest, I struggled to remember a defunct lullaby from my father’s breath.

I had become a voyeur of late, but the old woman across the street did not remember me when I waved to her from the bed of tall grass. She had vacated the world of menus and bills but smiled at me behind her teeth.

Her eyes, like my beloved’s, deep and lost somewhere beyond the surface of things. She crocheted lace, sang in Italian, and could not sleep.

The boys next door had outgrown the basketball hoop this summer and prayed for the attention of the girl down the street. The couple next door had just put their baby to sleep.

So many dandelions in the overgrown grass, I could not possibly sleep. Where was that tool I used last night to pull them from their sockets? Rusted, I’m sure, from too many downpours.

I had taken shelter under this year’s version of the apple tree. Perhaps the gardening tool was there under the picnic bench or by the dog’s fence, the baby’s breath. I don’t know.

The moonflowers were growing at a rate I envied. I had slept all day, too tired from the night and faraway traffic. So much moving, while I stood practically in place, snapping the dead branches from the butterfly bush and hydrangeas.

I gathered night again and wrapped it around me; the moonflowers growing through my hair that in last night’s rain had become a river rushing underneath the apple tree.

The boys next door were dreaming of the girl down the street, her long hair. The old woman sang a defunct lullaby in Italian.

My beloved lives on a star. Come down and hold me with the sky, I wanted the moonflowers to tell him, but he, too, could not speak from where he was dreaming.

 

 

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Chorus [from The Glass House of Forgetting]

We never knew what to make of the couple. They weren’t like us at all—their skin color, their features, hair, attire, demeanors. They seemed fake, frankly. Always smiling and the woman—always trying to eavesdrop and speak Arabic.

And that House of Forgetting of theirs—so open and exposed. Yes, we spied on them—every chance we had. With binoculars from a distance as if we were watching for fishing boats, their boat to transport their guests, sea birds, or falcons.

They must have been very rich to afford a house like that. We doubted that their guests paid enough to maintain that glass box of many windows. They were making money in our country, nonetheless, and had more money than any of us.

They only cared about Westerners—though they tried to befriend a handful of us. The old woman in the souk liked the wife—probably because she spent so much money on herbs and oils for their white witchcraft. They killed their daughter, the woman who could not remember anything, and the oldest man of our village. Those deeds could not go unpunished.

And their lighthouse keeper. He was aloof. Not one of us—and not one of them. There was something cagey about him. Some kind of trouble he had caused—a tortured soul, it seemed to all of us.

We were happy to see them go. Were we responsible? We thought so.

We ransacked their bed and breakfast to see what they had left—perhaps money, their rich possessions, and maybe items from their white magic.

We didn’t know about the book in the safe until much later—when everything would be exposed—just like their house. Some of us, in all honesty, prayed for them. They had supposedly helped many people to forget the suffering involved in being human. It didn’t seem fair that some people’s fate brought them more pain than others.

The piercing cries of the cello left behind would haunt us for years. Would we miss them? We would miss our camaraderie when speaking about them. The us against them. They made us cohesive somehow—Berbers and Muslims alike.

When called to prayer, we would think of them and wonder where they were—if they were still alive. They had aged the last few years. And the woman of the house was starting to forget where she lived and who she was, it seemed.

They were gentle people, in the end. It is a shame they couldn’t stay. We couldn’t let them. It was fate, we believed. They had lived amongst us, keeping to themselves, long enough.

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Girls in White Dresses [from The Glass House of Forgetting]

Dear Sir and Madam,

My family was desperately poor in Taipei. There were nine of us, and I was the oldest.

My parents sold me. I’m not sure how much money they received from the two men in suits who took me from home in the middle of the night.

My mother woke me from sleep. She was crying. Bong hii, I’m so sorry. Please forgive us.

They blindfolded me in the car. When the blindfold was removed, I was in a cage down an alley with other girls in cages. We were called the Girls in White Dresses.  I was twelve years old.

The first man who paid to have me, the term for it—jumped on me like an animal and ripped apart my insides. I bled and cried throughout the whole night.

Many more men did the same. Hundreds. When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t know who I was. I was not a wife, not a woman—still a girl with stringy, dark hair.

After five long years, one of the other Girls in a White Dress and I escaped after our men left. One of the men had fallen in love with her, came in the early, dark hours of morning and opened our cages.

I heard about your House where guests journey to forget horrible things that have happened. I pray that you have room for me and can help me forget all the men who took my body that I did not want to give.

Please write to me at my return address, the home of my friend’s man friend. He has promised to marry her, but I am skeptical.

I look forward to hearing your reply. I’m waiting with tears in my eyes and my soul in my throat.

                                                                                                                         Sincerely,

                                                                                                                        Bong-hhi

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IMPERATIVE[S]: WARRIOR

Proclaim WARRIOR status.

Pluck the dead tiger lilies. The goldfish orange ones, crumpled, and still wet with death.

Press down hard when you sign the legal documents. No, we’re sorry. No e-sign–and extra postage will be required.

Note: you will need the originals certified by a licensed notary. Please bring five forms of picture ID.  [See Appendix J for list of acceptable, unexpired proofs of identity.]

Count the days until winter with as much bravado as possible. Well, someone like you.

Winterize your favorite bench now as you will miss living in the garden.

Bench more weights for upper-body strength. Yes, you are deteriorating. [Don’t whine.]

Pay attention to the noises and sighs of the dog that was debarked before he ran away and somehow found you.

Talk to the chipmunk who lives in your living-room garage. Tell it to be very wary of the beautiful, apricot fox sighted with a gyrating squirrel in its mouth as it trotted through the width of the property.

Outfox your demons that conspire against you while you are hardly sleeping.

Demonize your fears that gather at your footfall when you stand.

Light the paper lanterns at dusk with the proper batteries. [Return the LED strings of lights that do not work.]

Dust your work station. Carefully clean out the food crumbs in the keyboard and the cat vomit.

Partition individual strains of your disease and their ancillary crescendo-ing.

Hold your arms out like a massive hawk. For at least sixty solid seconds.

[Don’t second guess any scavenged plenitude.]

Locate your favorite pen, the remote control, the sole key to the joint safety deposit box, your only non-broken pair of sunglasses, the prescription bottle to see if there is a refill, the contact name for the removal of private things.

Rearrange the unhappy flowers. Pluck the weak ones and replace with cascading tiny petunia bells [peacock color, and that of coral].

Free the root-bound ones, the chartreuse veins that crowd out the planter. Add nutrients to your own dirt.

Speak vociferously to the looming villages of dragons. Single each out for a good talking to—if your armor does fail.

Mix more blue paint with the green, add white, and then yellow. Then, paint everything orange.

[Repeat.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Stone Angel, or Forgetting Too Much [from The Glass House of Forgetting]

“Hello. Hello. I don’t know where I am! Hello. I don’t know you!” the elderly woman kept repeating, the woman whose elbow Ziri, the lighthouse keeper, cupped with his hand.

“Don’t touch me! I don’t know who you are! You’re hurting me! Stop! Let me go! I want to go back to Brooklyn!”

Ziri’s eyes were the color of amber molasses and agitated as he spoke, Sarah thought.

“I’m sorry to wake you,” he apologized,” but someone left her here. Just now. I saw the boat pull up to the shore.”

Sarah wasn’t fully awake and tried to focus—to frame the older woman who had a small suitcase in one hand and a rusted flashlight in the other. Her waterlogged slippers swished as she shuffled her stiff legs that did not seem to bend.

“It was an expensive sailboat,” Ziri added.

The woman was still in a panic. “The soldiers will be here. We need to hurry! Do you have any food? I don’t have any money. Hurry! Have you seen Melissa? I lost the baby. I’ve been up all night looking for her. Why are you so calm? The soldiers took her. Help me find her!”

“It’s okay,” Sarah said to the woman while removing a folded piece of paper that was pinned to her ocean-sprayed blouse.

“What are you doing?” the woman shrieked. “Don’t hurt me!”

A stack of hundred-dollar bills fluttered to the ground. Sarah read the note aloud to convince herself that she was, in fact, awake:

We have heard of your House of Forgetting and wonder if you could reverse the process for our mother, Sonya, so that she can remember all or some of what she has forgotten. This plea is our last hope. She does not recognize us, and her hostility has become more than we can bear. Thank you for what we know will be kindness. Yours truly, Melissa and Michael.

Sonya appeared to be in her mid to late sixties, but for the not-quite elderly woman, Alzheimer’s or dementia had settled in to burrow. Sarah knew she and Ethan had to take her in, believing her to be an ironic lucky charm—a reminder of the danger of forgetting too much.

Ziri explained later to Sarah and Ethan how from the lighthouse tower, he had caught sight of a figure and its silhouette returning to the sea’s vanishing point alone, paddling out from the shore with the sailboat’s motor turned off before leaving a rough wake under a splinter of moon.

 

The Fletchers and their guests came to think of Sonya as the Stone Angel of the Glass House. She listened to the guests’ stories with acute concentration and without judgment, interjecting an occasional “ah” or “is that so?” Their voices and words may have dislodged an echo or forgotten detail from her own life. Or perhaps she experienced something more abstract and fleetingly on a different plane. But there was no way of knowing.

While listening to some of the guests, Sonya tried to record notes in the hardcover orange book she carried with her, but by the time her pen touched paper, she could not remember the words—if she remembered the location of her pen. She often turned sharply to an invisible third party that Sarah thought she referred to (mumbling under her breath) as Death—to assure him, “I’m busy right now!”

Sonya was the perfect witness, a reminder that not everything is in one’s hands. Though she could not carry on a conversation per se, she was a charming presence when happy, especially when in close proximity to the sea or sitting with someone whose company she enjoyed. Other times, her dementia turned violent, her arms flailing, hitting anyone within reach. Like the first night Sarah walked her, with her three-pronged cane, into the dining room for dinner. Because of the cane, Sarah had been thinking of the riddle of the Sphinx—what walks first on four legs, then two, and then three? The riddle that ancient king Oedipus solved with his answer “man,” as he progresses from crawling baby to upright adult to a decrepit old man walking with a stick—when Sonya lashed out and swung her arms at Sarah. “What are you doing to me? Don’t touch me! I don’t know who you are!”

The few seated downplayed the outburst out of respect for Sonya and Sarah, and partly out of discomfort in seeing what could lie ahead for any one them. Why gaze directly into the crystal ball if one were powerless to change the circle of events? Sarah saw several guests watch from their peripheral vision, perhaps to learn how to prepare for anyone’s possible demise.

Sarah managed to settle Sonya into a chair and appease her by handing her the menu. Sonya appeared to study it, weighing her choices. Pointing to the menu she announced, “I want a Rueben. Just like in Brooklyn!” Sadly, there was no Rueben on the menu. She repeated, “A Reuben just like in Brooklyn. I lived in Brooklyn. Were you there?” Sonya smiled with a vapid gaze.

“Yes, Sonya,” Sarah answered gently to calm Sonya, who was clearly agitated, “I was there.”

Somehow Ethan improvised a Reuben sandwich out of ground lamb, cheese, and a tomato-yogurt sauce on a thinly sliced baguette he grilled. Sonya didn’t notice the difference and ate greedily while staring at Sarah. “Good! Do I know you?”

Every night she ordered a Rueben just like the ones she had in Brooklyn, New York as a young girl, a fact she unequivocally remembered. Sarah knew the uniformity of dinner provided comfort or maybe it was the only food Sonya remembered.

“I like you!” Sonya told Sarah as she ate.

Sarah smiled. It felt good to be liked by Sonya. She wanted to believe that it was because Sonya sensed on some level, the way that animals or children gravitate toward certain strangers, that Sarah was, at her core, kind.

Because of Sonya, Sarah wondered if without memory, love could exist. Sonya favored certain things and people intuitively, the way one comes to feel an affinity for the style of a Van Gogh painting, the wild abandon of the brushstrokes, the rich tones and piercing cries of an oboe, or the unbroken undulations of the sea.

She watched Sonya eat her Tunisian “Reuben” sandwich in the dining hall among the guests and mused how arrogantly (or was it out of necessity?) we forget or ignore our own paths ahead.

 

 

 

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ANGEL OF POETRY / onyx feathers

The Angel of Poetry shook me tonight, but it seemed, at first, that no words would fall from my mouth or hands. I sewed up those wounds yesterday, I told him, and asked to lie in his dark wings.

Some nights ricochet, I wept. Even the rain doesn’t dull self-inflicted wounds. The peonies and roses have surrendered their blooms to the rain, the hidden moon.

There’s still the smell of lilacs we waited for an eternity to open and unseal spring’s nectar. Nothing is frozen externally, at least.

So much is broken—the flower pots, the left panel of the privacy wall, Buddha’s chin, the indoor table on the patio, mantras of composure.

At dinner, I missed the conversations, pulled into the interstices of lost music; the maestro’s hands had become tired, water-logged birds. He knew.

The rain’s steadfast vertical, no slant to wash the windows to watch the world better tomorrow or the neighbor’s wall-sized TV for an explanation of the mass shooter or the plane crash—but his wings were the feathers of black swans.

The Book I had been writing became too heavy to hold. I told him how I ripped pages for folded paper ships; how one match took out the whole fleet.

How one’s ideas of love can become incoherent. How I wrote a letter to the scientist asking him for pills for heartache, for moving to the top of someone’s list.

I left today’s painting, “Melancholy,” in the rain to take some of the brushstrokes away, as he already knew. The uninitiated will not understand.

Wishful thinking can burn out the engine. One wants, at times, to be outside the brain and its frenetic tango. What does it matter what the day is called?

The grass is embarrassingly tall, but at least there was no treefall in the hail storm, and I washed my hair in the rain since there were no stars.

I am tired of being a pronoun, I told him, but he was gone.

 

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first pages of E C H O [E S]

A:

I don’t understand what you’re trying to prove.

Z:

That I have nothing to prove.

 

 

A:

This path is shadow.

Z:

This I know.

 

 

A:

Do not follow the other[s]. Let y come and show the way out.

Z:

I have a new trust in right angles, perpendicular, vertical

angels. Thank the gods you are vertical, my Angel, A.

 

 

A:

Who will lead this dance of broken particulars?

Unskilled in following leads, reading directions,

I bore easily. The mind wanders with the lost violin

off the page. The musical score set afire.

 

 

Z:

Absence distracts. Not skilled at waiting for what

really? Bring on the gasoline at this juncture

of jumpy birds. We all desire to be adored.

 

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